Not a good idea.
Even if you have trouble taking time for yourself, remember the safety instructions you get when you board a plane: Put your oxygen mask on first in case of emergency. Then put the mask on children and others who need your help.
One in three women will die from some form of cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. One in 35 will die from breast cancer, according to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. One in 72 will die of ovarian cancer, according to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.
While you can’t prevent these tragedies, you can reduce your risk. We gathered tips from medical experts on easy things a woman can do, starting today, to stay healthy and strong.
Your body is only as healthy as what you put in it. Here’s how to move quickly to a better path.
Cut it out: Just say no to smoking. Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk for breast cancer, according to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. And throw out the fad diets, as many leave out important nutrients.
Amp it up: Fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, beans and nuts and seeds can help with weight control (which improves your overall health). These foods also help give you the fiber you need (21 grams daily if you are over 50 and 25 grams if you are under 50). Women are prone to irritable bowel syndrome because they tend to get less fiber as a result of eating less food than men do.
Vitamin reminder: Menstruating women should eat iron-rich foods or take an iron supplement to prevent iron deficiency anemia. Vitamin C helps with iron absorption. Other vital nutrients are calcium, to prevent osteoporosis, and vitamin D, to help with calcium absorption.
The best way to release those endorphins that will improve your mood and give you energy is to accumulate 150 minutes of aerobic exercise throughout the course of the week. Sound daunting? Not if you break it down into 15 sessions of 10 minutes each, or five 30-minute sessions.
Clock yourself daily and don’t forget to go for “moderate intensity” – that’s when you can carry on a conversation while being a little out of breath and having a slight sweat.
Easy ways to fit it in:
Take the stairs instead of the elevator at work.
Look for the farthest spot rather than the closest when you park and walk to your destination.
Begin and end your day with a walk around your block. Do some exercises while you watch television. Give the kids a thrill (and a laugh) and play Dance Dance Revolution or Wii Fit with them.
And don’t forget muscle-strengthening exercises to fight osteoporosis. Ten to 15 minutes twice a week will do it. Weight-bearing exercises include squats, lunges, push-ups, sit-ups and weights.
See your doctor for an annual check-up and make sure you get these tests: blood pressure, cholesterol, bone density, pre-diabetes and thyroid. Starting at age 20, women should be getting clinical breast exams at least every three years. After age 40, get annual clinical breast exams, mammograms, Pap smears and pelvic exams, unless you are at higher risk because of family cancer.
Some doctors recommend that women perform monthly self-exams of their breasts; Susan Brown, director of education for Komen, says, “You should know what’s normal for you, and if your breasts deviate from how they ordinarily look and feel, talk to your doctor.”
Feed your soul
Don’t let these new tips add to your overload as you struggle to balance work and family. One of our most important tips is to relax and find time for yourself.
Slow down: Ask for help when work and family are stressing you out.
Rest up: Sleep at least seven to eight hours nightly (exercise and a good diet will help.)
Find a hobby: Dr. Elizabeth Weidmer-Mikhail, director of the women’s psychiatry program at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, recommends reading, gardening, or taking care of an animal. Can’t resist multitasking even when you’re supposed to be relaxing? Gardening and taking care of an animal can also help with exercise, plus growing herbs and fresh vegetables can improve your diet.
“Women need to do things that are soul-feeding that aren’t aimed at gratifying others,” Weidmer-Mikhail says. “Women need to take care of things, to do things that promote emotional growth. Find a satisfying hobby that doesn’t involve making money or drawing attention to yourself. It will increase your sense of self-worth, which leads to better health all around.”
Looking and feeling good
Ditch those spaghetti straps: The binding from skinny bra straps causes strain and knotting of the trapezius muscle, which can cause headaches or pain that radiates down the arm.
Check skin creams for Retin A: It doesn’t matter how expensive the cream is or how beautiful the bottle. Retin A (available by prescription) is the only scientifically proven anti-aging cream; if your cream doesn’t have it, it’s worthless, according to Dr. Rod Rohrich.
Bleach your bath: Add a quarter cup of bleach to a full bathtub of water and soak for 15 minutes as a cheap, safe and effective way to keep staph infections out of your skin, says Dr. Kent Aftergut (check with your dermatologist first). By Nancy Churnin, The Dallas Morning News.